K. Woloh, www.bramaby.com
In the first days of April an event – barely visible from Belarus, but the one that might lead to a fundamental chain of consequences for it – has happened on the other side of the planet. On April 3, 2012 a Delta flight has landed in the Darwin airport of Australia. Two hundred all-equipped US marines have exited the plane. This group has become the first set of what plans to be a contingent of 2,500 American marines to be relocated to Australia by 2017. The military transition is less of an army operation, but rather a message. And the recipient of this message is Beijing.
To re-phrase a famous quote by Lenin: “The Evolution, which was long called for by geopolitical analysts of this world, has happened!” On November 17th, 2011 the US president Barak Obama in his speech to the Australian parliament has clearly indicated the fact which was previously discussed only in books by Zbigniew Brzezinski et al – the Asia-Pacific region becomes the priority for the US foreign policy. And in-between the lines – in this role it substitutes all other regions of the world, and primarily Europe.
A changing geopolitical reality
The Asia’s awakening is the global phenomenon of our age. The China’s transition from obscurity to the second – and by 2030 the first – world economy is no small matter. At the same time, China is not an innovator of such processes. A similar rise has previously been achieved by Japan and South Korea (although on a lesser scale), and is strived to be followed by India. The new geopolitical reality of Asia Brzezinski compares to the pre-World War I Europe. Similarly to the once awakened kaiser’s Germany, China is increasingly unsatisfied with its share of the global pie. India, which already lost one modern conflict to China, resembles all-concerned France after its loss to Prussia in 1870. Off-shore Japan resembles off-shore Britain of that age – striving to tacitly push continental processes to its advantage. And same as a century ago, there is an ambiguous Russia on a side, gradually moving towards a new civil conflict.
However, there is no need to get overly scared, yet. Unlike Europe, Asia is used to balance in such a tense condition. The maximum European record of a peaceful life is about one century, while the Asian political tradition knows periods of peace close to 300 years in duration. Nevertheless, one can imagine intensity of efforts, and the scope of resources to be applied towards achieving this balance in the modern Asia. An inextricable role in this Asian game of a “multi-rope tug o’war” will have to be played by the USA, which has already overstretched its resources in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is only about to face a tsunami of upcoming debt and structural crises.
America increasingly understands that it will not be able to continue paying the global party bill (with Chinese money, by the way). It will have to let some of its stepchildren go straight into an adult life. The most grown-up kids in the family are the Europeans who will be the first to take full responsibility for their personal wellbeing. Unfortunately, being swamped by internal macho show-off and cheap populism America has almost entirely lost its chance in the early 90s to use a window of opportunity to install a balanced self-sufficient political system in Europe that would absorb Russia (and Turkey) into the “Global West”. But now the time is up, and Putin is on.
America is doomed to start leaving Europe – because 1) it is more needed in Asia; 2) it needs Asia more; 3) it can’t afford having both. With the US departure the European Project has all the chances to continue crumbling. Europe will have to choose one of the two: either start giving up sovereignty of its member states to achieve a balanced all-European economic policy, or start giving up the Euro, and thus transform itself into a gentlemen’s club of “Fridays Democracy Lovers”. The situation is aggravated by the fact that Germany is appointed the America’s substitution in Europe as the only viable option, and for the last three hundred years Germany has failed to create any better growth strategy than the one based on Russian resources.
In the meantime, Russia is ravaged by the unstoppable demographic crisis. Emptying Siberia is getting filled with millions of Chinese. This process – carefully avoided by both Russian and Chinese authorities – could have quietly continued on the backstage of BRIC’s summits until a peaceful dissolution of Russia after the ruling term of the current leaders, had it not been for one problem. The Chinese growth is a race against time. Chinese population grows increasingly older. By 2050 the percentage of old people in China will surpass that of developed countries. This gigantic burden will fall on the Chinese economy and will cause significant political shifts. The ideology of “Get Rich Now!” will not be able to play its pacifying role with young Chinese any more. It will get replaced by the new type of ideology, which becomes visible already now. The name of this ideology is “Chinese Nationalism”.
Today the main cathedral and keeper of the Chinese nationalism is the Chinese Army. Even though the army officially reports to the Communist Party, in reality neither Politburo, nor government has a firm control over it. In the event of a social crisis, the Chinese Army is the only real force capable of restoring order in China. Surely, there will be a big temptation to use an image of an outside enemy as a unifying internal force. There are only four “worthy” candidates for this role: America, Japan, India, and Russia. A potential «Drang nach Sibirien» is way too tempting to the Chinese because it achieves multiple goals in one strike: it immediately weakens Indian and American positions; China obtains control over global resources (combined with its African/Middle Eastern outreach); the conveniently empty “Chinese historical lands” are returned to China for a populist use by the internal propaganda.
The New Commonwealth of Both Nations
The above reasons leave us with the following global context:
— Weakening of the European Project due to a reducing American support;
— Stratification of the EU into “decision makers” and “decision takers”;
— Shift of the Russian attention towards Siberia and the Far East under the pressure from China;
— Alignment of Russia and Germany outside of the framework of the Global West;
— Combined interest of both America, and China in having a leverage point over the Russia-Germany tandem.
The 2008 war in Georgia showed that NATO is not inclined to put too much at stake for “unimportant Eastern countries”. Moreover, Afghanistan and Libya – not to mention Iraq – have casted a serious doubt on whether such a thing as a universal NATO solidarity exists at all. Especially since Germany has continuously played the role of a strikebreaker to a various extent. The main law of the jungles stays intact – nobody will protect you better then yourself. It is perhaps for this reason that Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have put aside their family disputes and old grievances, and formed the Visegrad Battlegroup planned to be placed on standby in the first half of 2016. Two things were particularly striking: first, the battlegroup was formed outside of the NATO framework which made it legally independent from neighboring European decision makers; and second, the group was warmly welcomed in America which is happy to have a new friendly military unit both big-enough in size, and independent from Brussels.
However, attraction of Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries towards each other is not dictated by defense reasons only. The reality of the modern European chessboard is such that to matter you have to be big (big ones have their sins forgiven; small ones have new criteria imposed). Previously, the CEE countries had their voices heard due to American involvement. But shifting American priorities leave them no choice other than to learn how to play as a team on their own. And since Germany increasingly hints that sovereignty is not untouchable any more, perhaps it is wiser to put elements of this sovereignty to a better use and gain some leverage in negotiations with more powerful players.
The main problem of Intermarium – how the CEE region is often called – is broad fragmentation of its historic legacy. However, is it really a bad thing? Intermarium is a world of “die-hards”. A land of people which are very difficult to kill. Bavarians turned into Germans, Burgundians turned into French, Pomors turned into Russians, but the nations of Intermarium used fire, blood, swords, and all other means possible to stay alive. Did they really earn their right to exist only to take the place at the end of the line? To the contrary – if used in the right way diversity of Intermarium’s historical DNA is something that gives value and unity to the entire region, a source of its strength and future growth.
Creation of a Polish-Belarusian union modeled on the Republic of Both Nations and routed in a new democratic foundation with corresponding mechanisms and institutions is the key to revival of overall Intermarium. It is such a confederation between Poland and Belarus that can open a road towards involvement of Ukraine. Without Belarus it is virtually impossible to attract Ukraine into a closer union with Poland without a risk of splitting the country.
It is Belarus that carries legacy of post-soviet integrations making it capable of delegating enough powers to supra-national institutions, and becoming a living proof in the eyes of Slovakia and the Czech Republic of the benefits brought to each of the participating nations by a more powerful sovereign union. A union capable of speaking with one voice on the international arena, as well as augmenting voices of each of its equal members.
It is a combination of Latin and Cyrillic, of Catholic and Orthodox, of EU-insider and EU-outsider traditions that will create a viable formula for all of Intermarium: from Balkans till Baltic.
And finally, it is Belarus that currently faces a historical momentum when it may consider a much closer union with Poland. Indeed, for Belarus the alternative to integration with Poland is not independent existence, but annexation by Russia and dissolution of Belarusians within a stagnating mass of Russians.
The United States of Intermarium
“…declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do”. Declaration of Independence of the thirteen United States of America, July 4, 1776.
Early states of North America joined their forces within a democratic union purposed to defend interests of each and all of its members in the world full of mighty empires. At least one of those empires was openly hostile, the other one provided various support, while the rest were busy with partitions of the first Republic of Both Nations. The latter came too late with creating a similar union of equal nations within itself (the 17th century downfall of the First Republic was largely ignited by civil wars between various religious and ethnic groups). Is it not a historic lesson to the people of Intermarium?
Today we can identify three major sub-groups within Intermarium: 1. The Visegrad Group (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic), 2. The Dnieper Group (Belarus, and Ukraine), and 3. The Balkan Group (Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia). Other countries form transition zones from one group to another.
This “tripod foundation” can provide an ideal support to the entire Intermarium system, ensuring the right balance between various parties and interests. However, this system does not need to erupt overnight, and can grow through a series of steps instead. Similarly, as the United States started from a balance (though painfully achieved) between North and South, and only later added the “Western leg”, Intermarium may start by penciling a balance between Visegrad and Dnieper groups on the example of just two nations. Ancestors of Belarusians and Poles have already formed a union once – the union which continuously saved nations of Central and Eastern Europe from Crusaders, Ottomans, and Eastern hordes in the course of 400 years. Inability of this union to transform itself into a democratic confederation of all major participating nations (more specifically, a timely recognition of the Ruthenian/Ukrainian part) led to a historic failure. It is the time to build on this lesson, and routinely start over again. But this time we should capitalize on social achievements of the transatlantic civilization, and utilize all new tools of democracy (and technology) to make a confederation of equal nations and people functional.
Having started once, the United States of Intermarium will appear in the right time and in the right place. Even just the union of Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine will already become the largest European state at par with Russia. The following growth of the USI through potential inclusion of other Visegrad states and Romania will open a realistic opportunity for the confederation to assume a dominant global role, and become a balancing geostrategic partner to both the USA, and China.
Depending on internal political fluctuations, Russia and Germany may provide initial resistance to such a process. However, even these two players will benefit in the long term from appearance of another strong European sovereignty. Alignment of the myriad of CEE states within a unified framework and under a democratic leadership (more democratic, and thus legitimate, than the current EU) will simplify and facilitate lots of processes in achieving new trans-European opportunities. It was a [then forceful] unification of the Central Asia under the Mongol leadership that allowed appearance of the magnificent Silk Road which powered both European and Asian trade and progress for so long. Similarly, the “Putin’s dream” of a united economic area from Lisbon to Vladivostok (which resonates the “Brzezinski’s dream” of the Global West) may come true only when the trans-European chain of Spain – France – Germany – Russia is fulfilled and connected by adding the United States of Intermarium in its rightful place.
In the aftermath of the World War II the USSR chose a financially self-destructive path of occupation, digestion, and buying-off of imbalances in the CEE countries. This was the beginning of the end to the resource rich Soviet economics. Today Kremlin has a chance to act wiser for once – save money and resources from building empty-shell empires, and direct them to development of its own country. There is no need to force its will on the former Eastern Bloc countries when they could be as good a partner as Germany, or France under the right circumstances.
Surely, it is a questionable strategy to solely rely on a historic vision in the board rooms of Moscow and Berlin. A much higher assurance of success comes from the support of global players who have their own strong arguments in conversations with inmates of those rooms. A Chinese support in conversation with Moscow, and an American support in conversation with Berlin is something that can make the United States of Intermarium a reality for the first time since the era of medieval crusades and Ottoman conquests. A geostrategic balance of global players has aligned itself into a unique celestial conjunction that happens once in a millennium. Sounds worth trying.
Especially, since all that is needed to start the process off is a will of two neighboring peoples – Poles and Belarusians – to conduct a referendum in both countries regarding unification of Poland and Belarus into a democratic confederation.